Bible Study

No. 7: How to Read Your Bible: Getting Started or Going Deeper

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No. 07: How To Read Your Bible: Getting Started or Going Deeper

Listen to this episode from One Degree Podcast on Spotify. Reading your Bible isn’t about checking a box or “doing the right thing” that “Christians are supposed to do.” It’s a gift of getting to know the Creator of the Universe.

Today is a fun topic! We’re talking about how you can start reading your Bible or go deeper in your Bible study. This was a question we got from a question box on Insta (shameless plug to go follow us over there), but we think it’s a question worthy of an entire episode!

We dive into why it’s important to read your Bible, how to set manageable expectations for Scripture reading, and some different study methods!

Why it’s Important to Read the Bible

If you don’t have a foundation for why you should read your Bible, it will be really difficult to make this a habit. And this reason should be personal- not just because other people tell you to or because you want to be a “good Christian.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the Bible is God’s Word to us and that it is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The Bible is not only a book of ancient history and wisdom, it is the literal Word of God that is divinely inspired. It teaches and corrects us. The Holy Spirit uses it to convict us. It is multi-faceted!

The God that created our entire universe has drawn near to us and has given us His Word in the form of the Bible. Why wouldn’t we want to draw near to this God and learn more about Him? If we truly believe that this is God’s Word, we have an incredible opportunity to learn more about our Creator!

As believers, if we truly believe that this is the Word of God, we should want and desire to read it in order to learn more about Him. In a Bible study that we led, we talked about the 5 L’s: love, learn, live, lean, and laugh. You can notice that right after “love” we had “learn”- we can’t properly love God if we don’t know who He is.

Debates about Scripture

Side note: We’re not going to get into the inerrancy (the idea that the Bible is without error) debate because that would take too long. This is definitely an important topic, so we encourage you to dig into this yourself! But we do want to address the argument that “Paul was only a man and the church decided hundreds of years later what books would be Scripture.” Just remember that Paul considered a lot of his letters as divinely inspired, and so did Peter! Take a look at what Paul and Peter have to say in these verses:

How to Start Reading the Bible

As with everything else, don’t try to read the entire Bible in a week! We’re all about the One Degree Shift, so start with manageable expectations! It is easier to do small things consistently and repeatedly than to try and bite off way more than you can chew. It is better to read the Bible every day for 10 minutes instead of once a week for an hour, start by focusing on consistency! 

Think about how you would start to train for a marathon. You wouldn’t start by trying to run 10 miles a day! You start small and work your way up to running marathon distances.

Not only should you start small, but you should also start with a plan. Google is your friend! There is no shame at all in googling “Bible-in-a-year” plans or “good Bible reading plans.” Like we’ve said before if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. You don’t have to have your entire year outlined (although that’s helpful), but at least know what book of the Bible you are reading and what book you plan on reading next. Know what you’re reading today and what you’re reading tomorrow. This will set you up to be consistent!

Topical vs. Book Studies

This leads to our next discussion on bible studies: topical vs. book!

Topical studies bounce around the Bible to look at what the Bible says about specific topics such as anxiety, loss, suffering, etc… A book study looks at and reads through the entire book of the Bible. Topical studies have their own place and they can be helpful, but we highly recommend that the majority of your study time should be book studies. Studying an entire book of the Bible helps you not take passages out of context like you might be more inclined to do if you’re just doing topical studies.

Scripture in Context

For example, Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most taken-out-of-context Bible verses. People quote this all the time to mean that the Lord plans to bless all believers with physical prosperity and riches with no hardship.

In actuality, when you dive into the book of Jeremiah, you know that Israel has been taken captive by Babylon. A false prophet named Hananiah claims that they will be freed in only a few years, while Jeremiah tells them that they will be held captive for at least 70 more years. This is the context that Jeremiah 29:11 is set in.

This verse is really saying that in the midst of hardship, you should continue to rely on and depend on the Lord. It isn’t saying that God will immediately relieve your sufferings and give you what you want. What do you say to believers who have cancer, are in the midst of loss, are fleeing from war, etc…? You wouldn’t tell them that they don’t have enough faith because God wants them to prosper! If you properly understand the context of a verse/passage, you will be less likely to incorrectly use Scripture.

The Focus of Bible Study

The focus of our bible studies and our reading should always be on God, not on us. It can be so easy to put “self-centered goggles” on when we read and continuously ask what Scripture says about us. Hot take, but this is probably why newer believers tend to hang out more in the New Testament because it is easier to place ourselves into it compared to the Old Testament. Our first question when we read Scripture should be: “What does this say about God?” because ultimately, it is a story about Him.

As you read the Bible, you aren’t trying to interpret what you’re reading to meet your predetermined belief. It’s not about “I believe ‘xyz’ is okay/wrong, so here are Bible verses to support that” based on whatever cultural trend or societal norms you may believe. You will always be able to find a verse to “support” any stance which is why there are Christians all over the spectrum over any issue (social, political, theological). It’s not a word search to hunt for the answer you are looking for.

Studying the Bible

So how do we know what the correct interpretation is? How will we ever be able to understand Scripture enough to know what is right/wrong? You have to read Scripture holistically- instead of reading a verse that was tweeted, read the whole book. As you do this, it becomes much easier to see when things are taken out of context. Know that there will still be difficult passages and hard issues to wrestle with. This goes back to the mindset that, instead of finding passages to affirm what we believe, we want the Bible to shape what we believe and reframe our mindset around what it says.

Once you pick a book of the Bible to study, read a chapter or a chunk of verses and start by asking yourself, “what does this teach me about God?” Even if you’re only reading for 5 minutes a day, you will almost always learn something. For example, the book of Esther doesn’t even explicitly mention God and yet we can learn a lot about who He is. Asking this question is a great place to start that is really practical and simple. If you start with one small step, it will help you understand things more deeply and be grounded in the right perspective of Scripture.

Big Chunks vs. Deep Dives

There is kind of two different types of Bible reading. The first is sitting down and reading a big chunk of Scripture, such as 5 or 20 chapters a day. The second type would be picking a smaller chunk of Scripture, such as 8 verses, and sitting in them for however long (i.e: 30 minutes). You read them over and over, pick them apart, and deeply study them. Which is better? There isn’t a true answer- one isn’t better than the other. There are benefits to each and both are important for different seasons of your life!

Taking bigger chunks of Scripture allows you to get a good 30,000-foot view of what a specific book is saying and what the author’s perspective is. A deep study of a smaller passage is like holding up a magnifying glass to the text and helps you to find the truths about God. These can often be missed if you only take the 30,000-foot view. Both are important and valuable, but if you are just starting to read your Bible (or if you haven’t done it in a while), we really recommend reading bigger chunks of Scripture at a time.

The SWORD Method

This Bible study method is really easy to use. It’s basic and rudimentary, so if you’ve never learned how to study your Bible, this is a great place to start! The SWORD method has six different questions to ask of the Bible passage you read each day.

  1. What does this say about God?
  2. What does this say about mankind?
  3. Is there a sin to avoid?
  4. Is there a promise to remember?
  5. Is there an example to follow?
  6. Is there a command to obey?

Check out the guide to reading your Bible linked below for a PDF that includes this method, our favorite Bible reading plans, and resources.

A couple final notes: reading your Bible shouldn’t merely be a checklist item, you should want to cultivate a love for God and His Word. At the same time, don’t let your motivations drive what you’re doing, let what you’re doing drive your motivations. Lead with discipline and let the desire follow.

Also, if you haven’t been reading and studying your Bible, don’t let shame keep you from starting. It is never too late to start.

One Degree Shift

This is going to be dependent on where you are at…

If you are struggling to read the Bible: pick a book of the Bible and read it for 10 minutes every day before you get in bed. (John, Romans, and Genesis are all great places to start! Google a Bible reading plan and then start it!

If you’ve only read the Bible just to read it, but never studied it: pick a smaller book of the Bible (like 1 John, Esther, etc…) and do the SWORD method every day on 1/2 chapter.

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